War against home-ruled local government continues

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

I’m starting to think there is a movement under way, on both sides of the aisle in Michigan and maybe the country, to destroy, dissolve and ultimately do away with local home-rule government.

That means no more township or city government. It could also extend as far as the elimination of individual school districts. Government would become more centralized, so there may be a county government and state government — but local municipalities would be dissolved and fall under a broader umbrella.

A prime example of this war on home-rule is the movement afoot in Lansing under Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to force the consolidation of services offered by local municipalities. Right now, cities around the state are scrambling to prepare studies on how they can share services with neighboring communities so they can qualify for state shared revenue.

Basically if cities want state aid, they are being made to jump through hoops by exploring shared services. What we could see from this is centralized police and fire departments.

There are those at the state level who would also like to see individual school districts dissolved in favor of all education being coordinated directly from the individual intermediate school districts. For instance, in Genesee County, the Genesee Intermediate School District would become the center of K-12 education here and teachers would work for the ISD, which would in turn answer to the state ISD.

School districts and municipalities who can’t keep up financially would end up in receivership, meaning an emergency financial manager would be appointed by the governor to take over operations for the ailing government body, such as we have seen in Flint. Your city council, township board or school board would loose all power and you would essentially have no control over you local government.

This is how some in the GOP would like to see Michigan reformed. Looking to the other side of the aisle, it doesn’t get much better. I was reading an article in The Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine recently that made me stop and think.

The Center for Michigan is a leftleaning “think tank” which describes its mission as curing “our unhealthy hyperpartisan political culture and (to) reinvigorate our broken policy apparatus by calling forth a bottom-up, common ground citizens’ agenda for Michigan’s transformation. The article spoke of a study which says townships in Michigan have amassed too much rainy day money in their coffers and it calls for what essentially is the redistribution of that “wealth” to ailing counties and cities around the state.

The article suggests its wrong for townships to be sitting on huge fund balances, but if you follow what’s going on at the state level any municipality would be remiss in these tough economic times not to sit on whatever money it can. No one knows from year to year what sort of state aid townships will receive, how bad property values will drop and how much health care benefits for employees will rise.

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